Author Archives: Cindawenda

About Cindawenda

blogger, mom, silver-tongued conversationalist, Italian spitfire,

Death Penalty vs. Life Imprisonment – A victim’s family viewpoint

I recently saw a Facebook posting from Rich Pollack whose daughter, Meadow, was gunned down along with sixteen others in a Parkland, Florida high school.

The question Mr. Pollack posed was;  if given the choice, what would you choose – life in prison or the death penalty for his daughter’s killer?  I scrolled through hundreds of comments, all which varied.

I had a more complicated point of view and offered my opinion in the same thread.

This gave me pause as to how many people actually realize what a victim’s family struggles with when asked this very question by a district attorney who is prosecuting their loved ones case.

It may seem like an easy decision but it is far from it.

Our family suffered an unimaginable loss in 2003 when my brother-in-law, Vinny, was targeted and murdered with a single gunshot in the head as he was walking to work in Midtown Manhattan.

Our family, like other victim’s families, learn to live with the pain. The anger does eventually lessen and there will come a time where the celebration of life overshadows the consumption of vengeance.

Having lived through the devastating murder of my family member, I thought I’d offer my perspective.

For my family, we chose life in prison without the possibility of parole.

That is a long time living in a small jail cell separated from society.  This choice was made for the benefit of our own mental health. Sentencing day was the last time we ever saw the murderer or ever uttered his name again. In a sense, he was dead to us forever and we never looked back.

There was freedom in knowing the government was locking him up and throwing away the key.

The death penalty is a complicated, emotional road that doesn’t truly end until the murderer’s heartbeat stops in chambers. There will be stays, appeals and court dates which only rips the bandaid off time and time and time again for victim’s family.  These inevitable court dates would cause the family to come face to face with the killer each time. It’s an emotional burden that wares on your despair causing endless pain.

This path never allows the family to heal.

It may sound strange and hard to understand for those who have not been in our shoes but we were not ruled by the old adage, an eye for an eye. The murderer chose to act like an animal and end a life.

We are civilized people who are not willing to contribute to taking a life so easily as this killer did.

It is never as easy as just saying the death penalty or life in prison. It is a daunting journey no matter the choice made by the victim’s family. Truth be told, no matter the sentence imposed, it will never bring back our loved ones.

It comes down to not letting these murderers consume the rest of our lives while still ensuring justice for the slain.

Peace and love to all those who have unfortunately walked in my shoes.


Opinion Piece on NYS Constitutional Convention

Ok folks, I’ve done my homework on the NYS constitutional convention. After seeing countless bumper stickers and lawn signs, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned. While the posting is long, I promise you that it will be worth it. I believe it offers a clear understanding to something that most find confusing.

We may all have different political views but one thing is for sure, WE ARE ALL NEW YORKERS! Read on as I think I can give you a better understanding of what this is all about.
The NYS constitution consists of amendments to the US constitution. There is a law which states this must be voted on every 20 years. There have only been 3 conventions in 100 years.

Why are people saying this constitutional convention is about pensions and are encouraging others to vote no?

Stick around because I finally understand why.

The last time there was a constitutional convention was in 1967. The voting delegates were chosen from 2 senate districts, 15 at large making for 186 delegates in total. This is who were elected delegates: speaker of the assembly was voted in as president and head of  the senate became the VP, 28 judges were elected as delegates. Out of 186 delegates, 120 were officers of the court meaning attorneys, assemblymen, senators,  in addition to people from lobbying organizations and political parties.

This year 204 delegates would have to be elected.

The constitution regulates the very people who were delegates. The purpose of the revisions to the document were to govern them!

Here’s some of the things that were proposed at this NYS constitutional convention in 1967. States and municipalities have to gain voter approval to borrow money. The delegates wanted to eliminate that. There were proposals to make it easier for local government to raise taxes. Hmmmm does any of this sound like a conflict of interest to you?

This propositions/amendments were all bundled together in 1967. That meant some good proposals were ultimately voted down because they tried coupling it with proposals that would benefit government. All propositions were voted down by the people of New York State because they were bundled together forcing all propositions to go through or in this case..not.

Just an insertion here.

Point one: Why can’t we vote on how we screen or appoint these delegates as this seems to be where the problem lies? There is no trust in the delegates to represent their constitutes voices during this convention.

Point two: Special interest groups fund political campaigns. Special interest groups are looking out for their own interests and money talks. Politicians can easily be swayed by those funding their political campaigns. Quid pro quo!

So after this debacle, voters wizened up and successfully voted against the constitutional convention in 1997.

I’m definitely not a status quo person and my own voting record on the board of education reflects that. I believe in reform and opportunity to do better. Some of the proposals for this convention are good ideas; term limits, ethics reform, transparency in budget process.

But you can’t just open up the constitution for SOME things. There are also some proposals you may NOT agree with. There is a proposition for amendments to Roe vs. Wade among others.

Pensions are guaranteed by the state constitution. People take jobs, even some lower paying because they are guaranteed a pension. They work their entire lives knowing they can retire on a pension, and now it may not be as safe as you thought.

Pensions can only be altered through legislation however provisions language may be tweaked and can alter the entire meaning of that pension language. The effects may be realized immediately but sometimes, even years down the road.

Sure, the constitution needs revisions from time to time but there is another way to do it. In fact, it has been done over 200 times since the last convention.

When two consecutively elected legislators propose an amendment and have the majority of voters approval, this amendment would be part of the constitution. There is a pathway which doesn’t jeopardize laws that are in place that protect us.

Keep in mind that this NYS constitution is OUR document not the governments! We have a say.

So after spending hours investigating this subject, I’ve formed my own educated decisions. I’ve determined that until the delegate electoral process is revisited/amended, I’m a no vote on proposition 1 for a constitutional convention.

Proposition 2 calls for the complete or partial forfeiture of a public officer’s pension if he/she is convicted of a felony. My vote on this is YES. In the last 13 years, 29 sitting politicians had been convicted of a felony in NYS.

Proposition 3 allows town, village or counties to build on 250 acres of forrest land as they feel is needed for public health and safety reasons. They set the criteria and will not longer need to go for a public vote each time they want to build in these areas. In exchange, they will create a 250 acre land account of forrest preserve land. While that seems fair, here’s the thing, THERE IS NO GUARANTEE ON THIS because it MUST be approved by legislators. I’m a no vote on this as well.

The bottom line is that the risks do not outweigh the reward for opening this NYS constitution.

All of these propositions will be on the back of your ballot. Don’t forget to turn it over!

As I always say, an educated voter is the best voter. 

Is Divorce Contagious?

When people get married, the assumption is that it will last forever. No one steps into the role of a spouse with an inkling that the situation upon them may be temporary. No.

We fall in love, get married, have children and grow old together. That’s how it’s supposed to work. That’s how we want it to work. The reality is, it may not always work exactly like that.

Stresses of finances, kids and work demands can weigh heavily on any marriage, at any give time. Some weather those storms, fiercely holding onto the sails as the storms thrash them back and forth in the wind while other’s find that their grip lessens, finger by finger, slowly over time for a multitude of reasons.

Wherever you may find yourself in your marriage, thriving, struggling or letting go, it is okay. In life, there are challenges, obstacles, triumphs, failures and happiness. They all come in ebbs and flows and marriage is no different.

Why do I say it’s ok?

Because no person can dare judge where you are in your life without living your life. Where you are or where you choose to be is an inside decision. Those pressing their nose against a window have no right to criticize.

For me, I held onto my marriage for more than twenty years. I was with this person for more than half my life. Sounds strange, but he helped shaped who I am since I spent two decades with him. Unfortunately, it was time to end the struggle. Both of us deserved to be happy which we only found in fleeting moments toward the end of our marriage.

The decision was not made overnight nor devoid of heartache and struggle. The children are at the forefront when going through a divorce. The priority is to minimize change and hurt for the children you share together. If a parting husband and wife can commit to making every future decision with the children in mind, it’s really half the battle. The kids shouldn’t bare the battle scars of one’s own War of the Roses.

Divorce is a life changing moment for anyone. You part ways with the person you are most intimate with and have relied on for so long. The choice is not made lightly and change is imminent for all those directly affected. It’s a roller coaster of emotions and no matter how prepared you think you may be, trust me, you’re not.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit that there is a level of doubt when you cross that line of no return. A lot of people stay for the children’s sake, for comfort and familiarity. At the end of the day, fear masks itself as doubt. You’re stepping, no leaping, into the unknown. How will you survive, pay bills, handle major events without the benefit of knowing that no matter what, that person is there for you at the end of the day (because they legally have to be if nothing else lol)?

I first hand experienced two phenomenons during my divorce. I can best liken it to when you shine a flashlight inside a tent in the woods and all the little rodents or bugs scurry away from the light. Well, that’s how it is with friends. I’d consider myself someone that has some solid friends. In the midst of my split, none were to be found. Granted most people had no idea about my personal life, but those closest did. Friends weren’t checking on me, offering to help, asking if I needed to talk. All the things you’d rightfully expect from a friend simply didn’t exist during this time. It was hurtful, disheartening and shocking to say the least.

I walked that lonely journey alone but in the end, I’m better for it. I relied on no one but myself to get me through the single most difficult situation of my life. I was consumed with guilt, anxiety and worry day after day. All I wanted was for my kids to be okay and for me to not only survive but flourish. Several years have gone by and I can tell you that those things have come to fruition.

But here’s the most bizarre thing that happens that no one will give you a heads up about, well, until now.

Friends leave you. I mean people you are closest to, distance themselves from you. I divorced my husband, not my friends. I was the same person and the same type of friend through the entire process. Through the dissolution of my marriage, neither my ex nor I asked people to take sides and we did not bash the other. We both did what we could to make our friends feel comfortable.

A few of my “friends” said,, “my husband doesn’t want me hanging out with you because he’s afraid I’ll get ideas” or “I didn’t tell my husband because he won’t let me hang out with you if he finds out because you’re single now”. Wait! What?

Is divorce contagious? Does a woman have some predisposed gene that if a friend divorces, the gene is so strong that she will then follow her friend straight to the matrimonial attorney? Are husband’s so insecure in their relationship that they can’t trust their wife to hang out with a single woman? Does being a divorcee equate to being some kind of floozy who will drag her friends along to some sort of male whorehouse? It blew my mind…DAILY.

To the men out there who do this, listen up assholes! Jumping into a relationship is probably the last thing on a woman’s mind during a divorce. As the matriarch of the family, the woman will continue to strive to provide the children some semblance of normalcy. She’s simultaneously crunching the numbers to make sure she can live in something more than a shoebox. Divorce is a crucial time in a woman’s life and it’s whens she needs her girlfriends the most for support so guys cut the shit and stop interfering lol. Actually, I take my lol back.

By the way, should your wife suddenly jump on the divorce train soon after her divorcing girlfriend, I promise you that your relationship was riddled with problems way before she showed up.

Let’s end on a positive note! As the cliché says, love shows up when it’s least expected, and from people that were right under your nose the whole time. As you can guess, that happened to me. The Big Guy upstairs threw some fairy dust around and I ended up falling in love with the most amazing guy ever. It has landed me in the healthiest, most respectful, loving relationship and for that, I am grateful.

I can also attest that my circle of friends organically changed. I sadly realized some people were only comfortable being in my life when things were miserable and thrived on seeing me that way.

I remember a piece of advice someone once gave me and I’ll share it with you. A friend will stick by you when things are bad, but you’ll really know who your true friends are when things are going great and they are genuinely happy for you.

I have surrounded myself with like-minded, supportive people who choose to celebrate the good things in eachothers lives all while dumping those that wallow in self-pity and perpetual negativity.

I take pride in reporting that despite divorce, which can produce mass chaos in any family, everyone is okay. Me, my ex, my kids, my boyfriend have all survived what seemed like the impossible.

If you can relate to any of this blog, know that you will be okay too. Onward and upward we travel.

Can’t We All Just Get Along? Politics Driving Wedges in Friendships

I’ve always been interested in politics. I pride myself on trying to self-educate on the issues rather than rely on others rhetoric. It seems this year that the vast majority of American’s are trying to do the same.

 But here is something I have learned now more than ever.

Politics are dirty and not just with politicians. Waters are muddied when there are political differences among friends.

I find it frustrating and disheartening. What is the thread that binds us all regardless of party affiliations? Social media.

 People are passionate. I get it and appreciate the enthusiasm on both sides of the aisle. Our children’s future is at stake and we all want to leave the world a better place four years from now than it is today.

However, I’ve witnessed blanket insults intentional or not, directed at so called friends or acquaintances on social media. When I read comments from alleged friends that state “you must be brain dead to vote for Hillary” or “anyone that votes for Trump is a sexist and a bigot”, it’s a direct insult to anyone who may support either candidate.

 Like politicians, I find these Facebook political bullies to be just as hypocritical as the candidate they choose to back.

 These are the same people that post inspirational memes of love, peace and of unity. Irony!

This election has gutted common courtesy and dare I say, sense out of some “friends”. Would you dare spew such hateful remarks or words in a face to face conversation with a friend? If someone were to tell me I’m brain dead or I’m a racist and bigot, you’d bet that was the last conversation I’d ever have with that person.

 Last night I shared a friend’s status that I found hysterical. It was shared in the spirit of humor and nothing more. The status was tongue in cheek. Before I knew it, I had someone comment how they were surprised I supported this candidate.

 I have never publicly stated my views nor whom I’m voting for. I wouldn’t be that dumb lol.

I find others constant “calling out” of friends (again I’ll use that term loosely) antagonistic and bully like. To me, those tactics infringe on stepping into someone’s personal space. Challenging theories or healthy debate seems reasonable but has proven impossible in this climate.

As I step off of my soapbox, I’d like to reiterate that each of us as United States citizens are charged with doing our own fact checking and truth seeking to find the candidate who will best represents our ideologies. We are not obligated to convince others of our opinion nor are we beholden to sway others to our position.

I beseech each of you to loosen your grip and think twice before you sling that mud as you never know who will be hit intentionally or not by that throw.

Ask yourselves, are Clinton and Trump really worth losing friends over?

May God be with each of you and may Election Day come upon us with speed.

Open Letter to My College Bound Son

Where do I begin? I have loved you your whole life and will continue to do so til my last breath. You have been so fun to have in our household. Your quick witted sense of humor, even dumb humor at times, always made me giggle. As an infant into adulthood, your easy going personality along with your permanent smile made parenting you so easy.

As you prepare for college there is so much advice I need to dole out to you. Murphy’s Law is for you to rebuff my advice as annoying or try to blow me off so I feel the best approach is through a letter. As I did with your sister, I will put this in an envelope and pack it up with your belongings as you move into your college dorm. When you long for a piece of home, or need that comfort of a mom’s love, you can read this letter. Know my heart is always with you.

Well, I must admit on your last day of school, I couldn’t stop crying. I wasn’t quite sure what I was crying about but it wouldn’t stop. Then it hit me. I’m crying because for the first time, I will not be physically by your side to problem solve with you or jump to your rescue. Letting go of you is way harder than I anticipated.

There a thousand things I love about you. I love the way you take life a day at a time and you never really sweat things. I love your fierce loyalty, honesty and humbleness. People gravitate toward you for a reason. You are warm, welcoming, accepting, compassionate, and genuine.

When you wake up in your dorm room for the first time sans your family, there are things you should be reminded of to keep you grounded. You now share a room with someone. Keep it clean! Be considerate of your roommate by picking up after yourself. After long days of classes and nights out, no one should have to walk through a mind field of dirty clothes or garbage, including you. That’s your first order of business!

For the love of God, set your alarm. I won’t be there to gently wake you up every morning ensuring you get to class on time. Make sure your alarm is set ALWAYS. You are now paying for college. Make sure you get to your classes as it’s on your dime now. Don’t hit snooze and say, I’ll just miss today. Nope, the more you miss, the more you have the potential to fall behind. Even on the coldest of days where you don’t want to go outside, get to class. Even on days that you may be hungover, get to class. Even on days you have a cold, get to class. Your sole job in life right now is to get to class, study, get good grades and PASS!

The time has come. Laundry time! Yup, don’t wait til your down to your last pair of underwear or shorts. Figure out a schedule and do laundry weekly. Knowing you, you might even skip the underwear just not to do laundry but suck it up buttercup. Laundry needs to be done and you’re just the guy to do it. Here’s the second piece to this puzzle. FOLD YOUR CLOTHES! Since I know you won’t be ironing and looking good is a priority, wrinkled clothes won’t work for you. Fold your clothes and put them away, just not in a pile on your desk or in a corner of the room.

You successfully completed high school and somehow with doing minimal homework. That comes to a halt immediately. There is no more skimming by. Your smarts alone won’t get you through college. Homework needs to be done and papers need to be written. Being a minimalist will be a detriment to you in college. Work up to your fullest ability proving to your professors that you are up to the task of college work. If you have an exam, STUDY FOR IT! Skip the night out with friends or a frat and choose school work over partying each and every time. There will always be another party or another gathering. That exam, well, there will NOT be another time. That exam counts toward your GPA.

Priorities, priorities, priorities! You are now living on your own for the first time. No one there to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. You are solely responsible for every decision you make and will deal with the consequences of those decisions both good or bad. Make smart choices. Parties and socialization are definitely the fun part of college but never forget you are there to earn a college degree. Academics are the priority. The end.

You’ve been a relationship for all of your high school life. Perhaps this relationship with continue in college and maybe it won’t. Decide what is good for you and what feels right. That relationship shouldn’t feel burdensome at any time. Your gut will tell you if and when you need to end it. Know it will be a lot of work to continue a relationship with you both being in separate colleges. I don’t want you to ever feel like you are missing out on something because you are bogged down by a long distance relationship. Keep in mind you will be exposed to many new people and people with different experiences. Be open to them and don’t pigeon hole yourself in a corner because you have a girlfriend. I’m not saying to cheat on her. Don’t ever do that! But every once in a while, take a step back and decide if it’s what you want. At this point in your life, it IS all about you.

For arguments sake and just to cover this topic, let’s say you end up single at some point in college. Be the guy that opens the door for a girl. Be the guy that isn’t a douche. Treat each girl respectfully. Don’t ever make them question where they stand with you. Be clear. Be kind but direct. Girls are emotional by nature and last thing you want is to have a girl cry over you. Be a gentlemen at all times and ALWAYS do the right thing by a female. Remember…if a girl says no, it’s no. Walk that girl to her dorm. If you are out at a bar with the a girl, make sure she gets home safe. Be the guy that every girl wants to bring home to mom.

At this point in your life, you may be unclear as to what career path you want to pursue and that’s ok. This is the time to figure things out. Explore everything! Take classes that interest you. You are going to spend your entire life working, make sure you choose a career you love. If you choose one major and decide it doesn’t interest you, now is the time to make that change. Figure out who you are and what you want out of life. I will be here to support your decisions and bounce things off of. There are tons of resources at school. Tap into them. Speak to your advisors and professors. They are your best educational resource. These people and these programs at school are here to serve you. Don’t be shy, step up and ask.

I’m excited for you to be attending a big sports college. Go to games. Enjoy everything that is at your fingertips. Cheer on your teams and have school pride. If feels good to be part of something. You are an enormously talented athlete and excel in all you do. You ARE good enough to play college baseball at Cortland. Should you change your mind, go to “walk-ons” and try out for the team. You will meet guys just like you that love to play ball and are the best. They will push you to do better and there is a brotherhood with baseball players you can’t find anywhere else. They become family for life. Think about that. If you choose not to play, it’s ok but stay active. Have pick-up basketball or football games with friends. Play softball or wiffle ball. Join the club teams. You are an athlete. Continue to be one!

Call your mother! Your life will be busy with school work, parties and friends. It is easy to get caught up in college life but remember there’s one person waiting to hear all about. She’s waiting to celebrate your successes, offer advice or just listen as needed. ME!! I want to hear all about your life as I won’t be there to see things first hand any longer. Know that you can call or text me at any time. I will always be here for you. I will be at Cortland in the blink of an eye should you ever need me. I’m only a phone call away.

Lastly and most importantly, be a good person. Be kind to everyone around you, student’s, staff and strangers. Befriend someone that might seem like an outsider. You never know how your actions or words can impact a person. If you see injustice at any point, I want you to stand up and speak up. If you see someone being bullied or treated like crap, you be that person to stop it. Do not be a bystander in life. You are an amazing kid and have always taken on the role of a leader. Continue to do that. Be someone that others look up to. Use that attribute for good…always.

Know that although you are at college, this is always your home. You are always welcomed here at any time. That no matter where your travels or life journey may take you, we welcome you home with open arms always. We are your comfort zone. We are the ones who will ALWAYS have your back no matter the circumstance. We are the ones who love you unconditionally. We are fiercely loyal to you and love you so much.

I wish you nothing but success, health and happiness in the next chapter of your life. You have always made us proud and I know you will continue that. You are the light of my life.

Mom xox

Make Your Mark – My commencement speech to my son’s high school graduating class

It is an honor to speak before you today. I’m proud to be among a sea of friends. Today, I have a trifecta happening, I am a school board trustee, an alumni and a parent of one of today’s graduates. Special shout out to my boy, Jake!  This graduating class takes on special meaning to me as I have witnessed first-hand a majority of the students  grow from kindergartners to graduates. 

If someone would have told me almost 30 years ago that one day I would be delivering a graduation speech for Calhoun, I would have said he were crazy. Like many of the graduates today, I was hard pressed to graduate from high school and move on to the real world. My end goal was high school graduation. As a Calhoun student, I’ve repeated the same words so many of you have to your own parents regarding my classes “when will I ever need this in real life”. Well, the only reason I was able to write today’s speech and read it without a bundle of nerves is credited to two of my former Calhoun high school teachers. My English teacher, Mrs. Schuman who taught me the beauty and art of the English language and Mr. Parkinson, my public speaking teacher who taught me the strategies to be articulate when speaking in front of others. Ironically, public speaking was a last minute choice, obviously that class paid off.

As evidenced today, what you learn in high school can and will be applied. In years to come, I promise that each of you will reflect on the teachers who most influenced you.

In keeping with today’s gratitude. I’d like all the teachers present today to stand and be recognized for their contributions to our district. Thank you for all you do for our students in Bellmore-Merrick and being an inspiration to our students, administrators and the board of education. Your passion and love for teaching and the students are appreciated and do not go unnoticed.

As a trustee, I have witnessed the greatness of our students and staff daily. The standard for academic success was set high and each of you sitting before me have met it. Our Calhoun teachers have guided you and challenged you. Each of you today has risen to those challenges.

Faculty, family and friends have all made sacrifices in helping you be successful. Whether it was a teacher extending a deadline or offering extra help or your parent who received that 911 text to bring your homework or that book you forgot. That your parent’s life immediately came to a halt to rush to school to get your much needed items to the office in time. Also, let’s not forget your friends who rescued you when you forgot an assignment and offered help.

Why would so many people go through such lengths for you? The reason is simple. They want you to succeed and do well. It’s a common thread that binds all of these people to your life. We all share in this rewarding moment and celebrate this milestone with you. As a school board trustee it is the highlight of the year when we hand out diplomas and watch each student cross the stage as your dream of graduation is realized by all of us in attendance. The fruits are your labor are rewarded today.

Whether you are entering the workforce after graduation or moving on to higher education, the advice is the same. Take risks. Asks questions. Planning and dreaming are great but I challenge you all to be doers. Don’t sit back gazing into the future of what could be. Be present. Action happens in the now. Greatness can’t be gained through the confines of a comfort zone. Push yourself and work hard. Be life-long learners. Never lose your thirst for knowledge.

Graduation is an interesting time in your lives as you are immediately propelled into adulthood. A week ago you’re a high school student and next month you’re an adult. Shed the skin of others expectations today and adhere to a new expectation. The one you put on yourself. Set the threshold high. Set goals. Make plans. Then work your way toward them. 

You will encounter many people along your journey. There are lessons to be learned from each of them. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your interactions, people will always remember how you treated them and your kindness.

 Here’s a small example I can share with you. When I was in Calhoun, we had an AV squad back then. That can probably be more associated to a computer club now. The students on this squad weren’t necessarily my friends but I always said hi to those who passed me in the halls. With the help of social media, I connected with so many past classmates. When I suffer a tech emergency, my first phone call is to one of these people who were on that AV squad back in my high school days. He is now the successful owner of a technology company. 

Today you are surrounded by classmates however one day you might come to meet them and they will be professionals. At your high school reunion, you will be surrounded by former classmates who are doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, counselors, and the list can go on and on. My point in telling you this is not to burn bridges. You never know when someone from your past will be an olive branch in the future.

You don’t need to have all the answers in life right now. We adults don’t even have all the answers. But each of us moves forward as you will. Part of life is making mistakes. There will be times you fail. Embarrassment or disappointment may try to defeat you. Don’t be blinded by self-doubt because it may infringe on your ability to learn from your mistakes and make you defensive.  Be receptive to the constructive criticism and work on your weaknesses to turn them into strengths. Make smart, well thought out decisions.

You are responsible for your life. Your parents, your family and your teachers have guided you thus far. But now is your chance to make your mark. Life is full of choices. Picture life as a road map. Each choice puts you on a path. Make sure your choices lead you on a path that you are ultimately proud of and will help contribute to your success. Live the life that YOU want, and follow that path to your happiness.

Today is a critical point in your life. The future is an open book and you will be responsible for writing the pages. You don’t want your life comprised of excuses of obstacles that stood in your way, who didn’t tell you something or by someone not offering sound advice. Someone will always have more or less than you. Find opportunities and leap at them. Figure a way over or around obstacles. Don’t rely on gossip and rumors as facts.  You are tasked to investigate things for yourself. Learn things first hand. Be accountable for your actions. Take this mantle of responsibility and use it to your advantage to be the best version of yourself possible. If you had a bad day, experienced a disappointing test grade, flopped on a job interview don’t fret. Don’t be stuck in that moment. Rather turn the page of your life’s book and start fresh tomorrow. You are the author of your own story and are capable of changing the narrative at any point.

We are gathered today because of your academic achievements but more important than that is continuing with the strong character education you’ve been taught. You can be the most successful person in the world but if you don’t have good moral character, life is shallow. Continue to be a good person. Be kind in all you do and to all you encounter. Be compassionate. Be generous. Be accepting, Be tolerant. Be humble. You never know how your words or kind gestures may impact another person. Your integrity is your calling card in life. Be true to your word and never break it. You are only as good as your word. A reputation is what others think of you. Integrity is what you think of yourself. 

This truly is the time of your life. Seize the day. Enjoy your friends this summer. Enjoy the beach, ½ price apps at Bees and revel in being around those you love most. Don’t base your worth on how many likes you have on Instagram. Social media isn’t the benchmark of one’s value. Don’t lose out on moments in order to capture it in a picture. Don’t be a slave to your phone or preoccupied with who is texting you. Just stop. Put the phone down and participate in making memories with those who are present. Live life every day to the fullest.  

In closing, we look forward to hearing about you even after today’s graduations. We celebrate in your greatness, your achievements and milestones today and beyond. We are all enormously proud of you. Remember, once a Colt, always a Colt. We all bleed blue!

On behalf of the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District’s Board of Education, Congratulations to the Sanford H. Calhoun Graduating class of 2016. You did it!

The Woman Behind The Myth

Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!

Life is full of twists and turns and today, we shall celebrate a twist!

For my steady followers, you might find yourself yawning during this blog but I encourage you to stick around. While you have pieced together my personality through my writings, and I have shared snapshots of my life, we are going to delve into who the woman behind the keyboard really is. I invite you to take a peek.

It’s a bit long, but stay the course.

Besides being a successful blogger, mom, sister, friend, daughter, and business woman, I am also a school board trustee. Interesting, right? If the answer is no, kills me to say but you might want to scroll past this latest post and I promise for continued entertainment in my next blog. Pinky Promise!

To my delight and surprise, I have found that the teachers in my district are directing parents to my blog. Wowza! I’m a lucky girl. I have about 95,000 views on my blog currently and I’m hoping my hometown peeps will push me over that 100k threshold. Repeat after me, YES WE CAN!

Now that I have a new found, extended hometown audience, I just want to give a shout out. Welcome people.

Let me tell you my story, rather than the myth behind the legend. Let’s talk facts.

Like any good Italian mother, my mother drilled certain things into my head and they have carried over to adulthood. Don’t put shoes on the table because it’s bad luck. Don’t open an umbrella in the house. Always tell the truth because the truth is never wrong and be a leader, not a follower.

I grew up as an independent thinker. I never succumbed to peer-pressure and honestly, was never one to follow the crowd for the sake of popularity. I’ve always been a forward thinker, problem solver, peace maker and a strong advocate for the underdog.

I grew up in a broken home with older siblings and my mom. She worked her ass off! She worked full-time and attended college full-time at night all in effort to provide for her four children. Despite being exhausted, and having limited to no funds, she always took me to see local high school plays, ballets and operas. She instilled in me the love of the arts and I share this passion with her.

Before baby #4 came along (that’s me, baby #4) my mother volunteered as a 4H leader and was a Cub Scout leader.  She has and still does have a strong belief in volunteerism.

Growing up, I was always the student that didn’t have a parent in attendance at school events, due to my mother’s working obligations. Since we had no money, I could never participate in after school activities.

For sake of anonymity, I’ll use just first names. Kristin was a year older than me. She was a pretty blonde girl, very popular, perfect family and she strut the halls of our elementary school with her green Girl Scout sash. I wanted a Girl Scout sash too! I ran home to ask my mother if I could be a Girl Scout. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have the money and that couldn’t happen. While disappointed, I never held a thing against my mother. She was doing her best and I appreciated it all.

Everyone WAKE UP! Hopefully you’re not dozing off. There is a reason I’m giving you these examples. I have core beliefs and I contribute them to my upbringing. I’ll refer back to this a little later in my blog, good reason to stick around.

For the sake of time, boredom and a limited word count, let’s fast forward.

My first child was entering kindergarten at the very same school I went to. It was surreal! She would now be walking the same halls I did. Sidebar: I never attended kindergarten because it was part-time back in the day so I was enrolled in full-time daycare. While I did skip kindergarten and can’t attribute that to my uncontested smarts, I did skip 11th grade. (Silent applause lol) 

I knew I wanted to be an involved parent and be part of my daughter’s educational journey, as with all my children. I immediately volunteered for class mom, assisting as the teacher directed. I attended every PTA meeting and my thirst for knowledge and information was palatable. I asked a zillion questions but some just couldn’t be answered.

This is where I made a choice and my path veered toward leadership. I sought information and there was no one there to provide it upon inquiry. So I took it upon myself, to attend educational sessions sponsored by the PTA to learn the rules, guidelines, procedures, and bylaws. I became an encyclopedia. I wanted to share the wealth of information I acquired.

I soon chaired events, held various positions on the PTA executive committee and ultimately was propelled to President. I navigated my way through the schools with parental, teacher and administrative support. We were a team,  all with the same end goal in sight, educating the whole student and making a difference in a child’s life, including my own.

I was a Girl Scout leader for seven years during my daughter’s entire tenure at the elementary school.  I was also a Boy Scout leader though that didn’t last long due to my son’s lack of interest lol! I wanted to afford my children every opportunity that I didn’t have.

If you were to ask those that worked with me, I’m going to go out on a limb and tell you that they thought I was fair, knowledgeable, accessible, calm, understanding, compassionate, passionate and student driven.

I made many initiatives with support of the committee I served with that I am enormously proud of and some still continue today. Just a few examples are Red Ribbon Week, PTA teacher grants and after I chaired the auction committee, our PTA solely funded the new basketball courts, benches and all the murals you currently see in the school today.

After exhausting my goals on the PTA, the next natural progression was the School Board. Like PTA, I have been attending school board meetings since my daughter was 5. She is almost 21 now. I listened at these meetings and asked questions. It quickly became apparent at the get go that the big decision making for our children’s education happened at this level. I found it mind boggling that I was sometimes the only parent in attendance.

Are you still with me? Let’s talk school board. Why do I serve?

I am a lifelong advocate and volunteer. I believe serving on the school board is one of the greatest acts of volunteerism. I serve for betterment of our community and as an investment into our future, the children.  This district has educated me and all my children and I want to give back as it has given so much to my family.

I totally believe in lending a voice to those children who do not have one. For the children’s parents who are indigent, for those that have immigrant parents with language barriers, for those with special needs. I want those children’s voices to be heard as well as the general education child.

My childhood has prepared me for all of this. My heart is big, my compassion is boundless and my urgency for inclusion is pressing.

Ok ok ok ok…I’ve gone on and on. Let me catch my breath! Condense Wendy, condense!!! Wrap it up.

While staff or parents may become focused on a specific issue, it is important to recognize that issues come and go within any school district. What is a priority today for a parent or teacher may not be tomorrow.

Being a trustee is a multi-facetted job. It is a fine line as we are elected to represent our constituents but we are employers to the staff of a district. Every decision by a school board is made in the best interest of the student. Sometimes people lose sight of that and become distracted or focused on a single trustee when truth be told, we work and vote as a unit of seven. No one speaks individually for themselves but rather for the board as a whole. We are one voice.

Before I was elected on the school board there were times I got frustrated as a parent and couldn’t understand why an action wasn’t taken when the solution seemed obvious. My blinders came off the minute I walked into that board room on my first day. There are so many moving parts, and confidential information which weighs-in on any decision made by the unit.

We create policy, procedure and the vision for the district. We also have a responsibility to ALL voters; singles, parents, empty nesters, and seniors. We work hard to keep programs intact and our teachers employed all while keeping taxes increases to a minimum.

For those that stand in judgment and wag fingers or look for minutia to attack, ask yourselves, are your actions in the best interest of a student? Are your motives with the student in mind or are your motives clouded by your own agenda?

I’m a fact seeker, let’s throw out some facts about me:

  • I love children.
  • I advocate for children.
  • I believe in educating the whole child.
  • I believe in exposing our children to the arts and thus, fight to keep a very successful theater program in place.
  • I believe in fairness, transparency and truthfulness.
  • I believe in open-mindedness and thinking out of the box.
  • I believe in exposing corruption and untruths.
  • I believe in volunteerism and giving back with no hidden agenda.
  • Lastly, I believe everyone should be an independent thinker, making decisions based on fairness and track record.

What I’ve also been exposed to as a parent, PTA member and board member are that labels get thrown around quickly and quite often unfairly. As in life, not everyone will see eye to eye in the education world. Parents begin to walk on eggshells for fear of being labeled anti-teacher. What’s unfair about this quick call for condemnation is often times; these very parents are the ones whom volunteer in classrooms, volunteer at school events, buy teachers gifts at holiday time and end of the year. These are parents who entrust their children with the teacher day in and day out and rave of their child’s success and growth. These are parents who believe they are taught by outstanding educators and brag to anyone willing to lend an ear. These are parents who want the very best for their child. A disagreement doesn’t constitute an anti-teacher position. Why do I know so much? Sadly, some have attached that label to me.

Wow, Debbie Downer! Ok group hug. Bottom line is I love my children more than life itself. I love my school district which I have been in for 46 years. I love my teachers even though occasionally they don’t always have love for me and I love being your voice on this Board of Education! Each and every vote I cast is not of my individual perspective, it’s a vote I cast for YOU, my constituents, and the actions I believe you would support and want.

So hometown crew, listen up! Rally the troops and get out there on May 17, 2016 and vote for me. Show me the love!

Big thank you to anyone that has read this blog or any other to date! I’m proud of my writing. Teacher’s let me know how I’m doing on grammar, sentence structure etc.. I’m open to it lol! Know that not every blog is for every person but give it a chance, be that independent thinker and maybe, just, maybe you’ll even find that you like them! Peace out!